Storage facility manager makes sure veteran gets a proper burial

CITRUS HEIGHTS, Calif. -- They rumbled up the driveway of a Citrus Heights storage facility at 11:30 a.m. Friday, each of the five motorcycles flying an American flag, each of the six riders wearing a bright yellow vest.

They lined up and parked in front of unit 5001. Jerry Petersen, manager of the Mini Stor on Auburn Boulevard, rolled up the orange metal door and lifted a golden urn from some shelving inside.

As Petersen stood in the open doorway, the six riders made a path to the motorcycles for him, three on each side, saluting. Petersen carried the urn to the back seat of a waiting bike, stepped back and gave an emphatic salute.

And like that, James Gerald Leach, retired U.S. Air Force senior master sergeant, was on his way to an honorable burial 13 years after his death.

"Very emotional," said Petersen, 51, who served in the Army from 1977 to 1989. "It's something that I wanted to see done since I found him."

It isn't clear how long Leach's ashes sat abandoned in the storage facility before Petersen discovered them a year ago.

But what was clear to Petersen when he found them was the Air Force emblem engraved on the urn.

A veteran from a military family, Petersen believed Leach deserved a proper burial. Thanks to his efforts and those of the Missing in America Project, Leach will soon be interred alongside his peers at the Northern California Veterans Cemetery.

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